By Robin Walls

 

 

It’s amazing when God shows you something you already know but He reveals it to you in ways that make you see it in a whole new light. This has been happening in our home for the past few weeks.

 

We all know the story of when Jesus walked on the water and called Peter out of the boat to walk on the water to Him. Most of us learned it as a child from our parents or in Sunday school.  We learned that Jesus did this to show us that He is the Son of God.

 

Our family has been experiencing a season of  challenges, just as your family may be or have done in the past.  Just normal life stuff with an added challenge or two.  In the midst of it, God has revealed this story to me and my son so many times and in so many different ways that it has been impossible to miss. The story has come to be a renewed life line for us.

 

It started in March when Pastor Matt delivered the message about ‘The Waiting Room’.  At the end, he made a reference to focusing on Jesus, not on the waves or the storm. It hit me right then that in the story, the waves and the storm represented the challenges of life and Jesus was what He always is…our salvation.  We just needed to keep our eyes on Him.

 

The next time was through an email devotion. When I opened the email and read the title of that day’s devotion, Walking With Jesus in a Storm, I was amazed that the Lord sent this so clearly to us a second time. The devotion spoke about how precious it is to experience God’s presence through hard times and to pray for discernment to be able to recognize His presence.  We were grateful for another layer of reinforcement about keeping our eyes on Jesus.

 

A few days later, a band my son and I love and have seen perform many times was posting live on social media from a boat. The person speaking was so moved and quite emotional. When I turned the volume up, I learned that they were in a boat on the Sea of Galilee and he was talking in awe about being on the same body of water that Jesus had walked on. I was hearing God loud and clear. At this point, we started keeping count of the times He brought this story to us.

 

Days later, I was in my car when a song came on the radio that was popular a year ago. We had heard the song so many times that we were desensitized to the words and their beautiful meaning.  But that day it hit me when the Holy Spirit made me hear as if it were the first time.

 

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders

Let me walk upon the waters

Wherever You would call me

Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander

And my faith will be made stronger

In the presence of my Savior

    -Hillsong

 

The most recent way God showed us the importance of this story was actually through Facebook. A friend posted this picture and when I saw it, it took my breath away.

 

It’s a beautiful reminder to keep our eyes focused on Jesus and not the waves or the storm.  If we slip up and focus on the waves, we can be sure that he will be there reaching out us.

 

Where have you seen God bringing old lessons back to been seen in a new light?

 

 

By Erica Schleman

 

Heartache. Hurt. Confusion. Aching and longing. Circumstances can overtake our lives, and break us down. How do you cope and make it through each day? I struggled through sadness, desperate longing and confusion until something finally clicked.

 

I was a mom of two beautiful children struggling with secondary infertility. I had two miscarriages within six months of each other. I was sad. I was confused. I had so many “Why’s”. I prayed for God to give us another beautiful, healthy child. I prayed for healing from miscarrying and that my “want” would be His Will. But my prayers weren’t being answered. I trusted God heard my prayers, but now with desperation I needed to adjust my expectation.

 

I hoped my prayers would be answered just as I asked, but I was struggling. Did I truly believe that God is in control and will answer? I needed to learn to surrender this completely to God…and wait.

 

“Be still and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10

 

Fifteen months after my second miscarriage and still not pregnant, we began fertility testing. Three months later the specialist reported that all tests results were normal. In that moment it felt like God’s hand rested on my shoulder saying, “There’s nothing more you can do. Give this to me.” I had still been trying to control the situation and even though I prayed His Will be done, I wasn’t surrendering it completely to Him. This was hard!

 

“Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27:14

 

 

Over the next few months my faith grew stronger as I asked God to set my heart on him and not my circumstances and desires. I prayed to have strength and to accept His Will even if it was not what I longed for. I stopped praying for what I wanted and prayed instead for what His will was for me. I grew closer to God and more focused on my relationship with Him.

 

Three months later we were scheduled to meet with the specialist to discuss fertility treatments, however I became pregnant just before that time. God heard me and answered!

 

God built my faith through this journey. He taught me to trust Him no matter how things are looking in the natural.  Even though we sometimes don’t get the answer we want, I learned to keep praying. I can trust in God, His plan, and His timing. My relationship with God is stronger and I know that is the best outcome I could have imagined.

By Sue Nichols

 

 

Recently, I reflected on the state of my life and I just had to shake my head. I was heading in the direction of the crazy busy life I have been fighting against for a long time. In fact, I was smack dab in the middle of the whirlwinds of not even having time for myself. I was not spending as much time in prayer and I was certainly not feeding myself with God’s word. How did I get to this space?

 

Then, I thought about Easter and the significance of the week leading up to Easter. What hit me most was that this weekend marks the greatest example of obedience and sacrifice of anyone since the beginning of mankind. Jesus did not want to die, but he was obedient to God. He died for all of our sins so that we can have eternal life and so that we can have an intimate relationship with God.

 

When that thought settled deep into my soul, I asked myself, “What obedience and sacrifice am I exhibiting toward God?” The problem I found myself in was that I was not being obedient and I knew I did not want to settle for this type of life. I want a life full of purpose, meaning and awareness of those around me. When I am in the state of the whirlwinds, I have such impaired vision of others’ needs and God’s promptings. 

 

God blesses us when we obey his Word and his promptings. As our love and knowledge of God grows, we are moved to make sacrifices of time, money, food or possessions to honor God and bless those around us. Obeying God and sacrificing that which we hold dear can be a reminder of the monumental act of Jesus on behalf of all of us.

 

Today, I have drawn a line in the sand. I claim the promises that God states for me in the Bible. I have stepped out of the whirlwinds and I have made a deliberate choice to reconfigure my priorities and place God at the forefront of all that I do.

 

I challenge you, if you are in the whirlwinds of this crazy life, take the time to step away and make the choice to not be sucked into the chaos and whirlwinds of this world. This can be a process. I have been here before and it CERTAINLY takes a conscience effort to remain obedient. Don’t worry, God will give you the strength you need ——simply ask and seek Him.

“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

By Ashley Kuczynski

 

 

“Do you have what it takes to take on a fixer upper”?, my TV bellows on a Saturday morning as HGTV streams a marathon of my favorite home renovation show, Fixer Upper. I purchased my first home last year and in the wake of that process I became addicted to the show. I delight in watching a house evolve from horrific and hopeless looking into the most beautiful and coveted house in the neighborhood.

 

Transformation after transformation, I have been drawn into the process of restoration. In fact, I have found that my favorite episodes are those that involve restoring a house that resembles a shack and truly should be torn down. Chip and Joanna Gaines, the experts and stars of the show, never deem any property a loss. Somehow, they always recover what appears to most as wreckage and turn it into a masterpiece.

 

My affection for the show has turned my thoughts toward my relationship with the Lord and Bible study this year. At the start of 2017 I began reading The One Year Bible. (If I’m being honest, I’m behind where I should be in my reading. But, this is the current plan I follow for each day’s quiet time). I have never read the Bible in full and I wanted to read all that I have studied for years in pieces within context.

 

It didn’t take me very long to identify a theme in that the individuals’ lives we read about in God’s Word are downright messy. Sin via immorality and unwise choices rule the biographies of the celebrities of the Bible. In the midst of all of the messes, another theme emerged… God’s involvement and faithfulness.

 

Just as Chip and Joanna take the ugliest house and redeem it, transform it, and make it completely new so does our Father God with our lives! He never views any life as a loss and instead makes it over and completely new! And he chose lives that many would categorize as unredeemable to be those that are featured in his Word. He knew that the unlikeliest of redemption stories are those that would draw us in and give us hope for our own lives.

 

In reading and studying God’s Word this year I have been so encouraged by his transformative quality. I know a life transformed is the entire premise behind salvation and his love and grace for us, but I forget. I forget that long ago he redeemed me and when I chose to accept Jesus as my Savior, his restoration in my life began. I forget in my striving that all I need is His strength. In my surrender and submission to his will and plan for my life, he trades my muck for His mercy, my flaws for forgiveness, and my sin for salvation. Somehow, someway, through his almighty sovereignty, what I get wrong he restores and makes right. He even uses my messes for good in my life and in the lives of others in a way that brings him glory.

 

When I need to remind myself that he is able to do more than I could possibly imagine with this “fixer upper” (a.k.a. ME!),  I remind myself of one of my favorite quotes about God’s recruitment and restorative process…  “the next time you feel unqualified to be used by God remember this, he tends to recruit from the pit, not the pedestal”. To our God, no life is lost, he has redeemed us, called us by name, and we belong to him.

 

 

“But now, this is what the Lord says – he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine”. Isaiah 43:1

 

By Becca Christensen

Jesus had twelve disciples.  This isn’t exactly a secret, even amongst non-believers.  Recently I really thought about that though.  Twelve.  His twelve go-to guys.  Why is it Jesus, the Son of God, had a small army but we often try to do the Christian walk alone?

 

This year I invited several women to read through the Bible in a year with me and meet once a month.  Once we built our core group, a few other people popped up who were doing the same thing, so we invited them too.  Reading through the bible in a year is a journey and being on it together seemed necessary for each of us to get to the finish line.

 

 

One of the benefits to living in community is having people to encourage me. One of my fellow group members recently said, ‘Becca told me when her sister was having emergency surgery, that the Lord made her and loves her more than she ever could – so why wouldn’t she trust Him?’  Wait, I did?  I didn’t remember sharing that.  Hearing it repeated back to another member of the group did my soul an incredible amount of good though.  I couldn’t have known how soon I would be reminded of those words…

 

In our January meeting we talked about unwavering faith.  We had read the story of Abraham being willing to sacrifice Isaac when the Lord instructed him in Genesis 22.  I asked the group if they ever wonder what could or would shake their faith. I confessed that I worry and work at my faith for the big things because I WANT to have the kind of faith that trusts when it’s hard.

 

Less than a week later, I would find myself in a doctor’s office being told I need testing.  I had come to the doctor for a routine physical and as the doctor felt my neck, she had some concerns.  She wrote scripts for lab tests and ultrasounds and I took them and left the office.  I fished my phone from my purse as I sat down in the car and I texted two of the girls from my bible study.  I asked for prayer but I stated: I am at peace.

 

A few hours later my sweet friend texted me back and said: you were just talking about strengthening your faith so that it could stand up when tested. Well your faith just got tested and if your texts are any indication: your faith hasn’t been shaken.  I just wanted to point that out.

 

Immediately, I stopped to appreciate that.  The very thing I had prayed and worked towards I almost missed.  That my trust in the Lord is growing.  That my peace is present not just on the good, easy days but when it’s tested too.  In a situation that would often times bring anxiety, I believed that my maker was in ultimate control.  I needed my friend to remember for me and to point out for me that growth.

 

Galatians 6:2 says, ‘Share each other’s burdens, in this way obey the law of Christ’.  Through this group, I’m learning to share my burdens.  Where I once took on others but never let anyone help carry mine; I am growing through living in this community.  When I’m transparent, my group can remind me of where I’ve been and what I’ve said.

 

Hebrews 10:24-25 says this: ‘And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching’.  Let’s do this! Spur each other on. Meet together.  Encourage each other.

 

Tribe has become a trendy little word for graphic tees and friend circles alike.  I think Jesus and the disciples were a little tribe.  This year, I’m building my own.  How have you learned to share your burdens and give the gift of encouragement to your people?